Member Profiles: Jake Cashion
ACCE: How did you get started in chamber work, and what keeps you in the profession?
Jake: Before coming to the chamber, I owned a local real estate firm. After three years of consecutive growth and year or so of negotiations, my company was bought out. I had volunteered for political campaigns for years, and worked full-time on the election campaign for Rep. Virginia Foxx. Although I found politics to be fun, I wanted to get deeper into policy issues. There was an opening at the Greater Winston-Salem Chamber at just the right time, and I have been at the Chamber for over a year now.
It hasn't always been easy making the transition from private sector business owner to non-profit staffer, but I love working the issues. I also appreciate that I spend my days promoting a strong economy, efficient government, and the overall health and safety of my community.
ACCE: What policy issues are currently occupying your time?
Jake: Transportation funding is a big issue for us right now. A beltway around Winston-Salem was partially funded in the late 80s, but is still not complete. We are working to get that finished. I am also busy with our newly launched HILL (healthcare, immigration, and labor law) Committee. The role of the HILL Committee is primarily to educate our members about issues like Card Check and local immigration proposals. We want to arm members with talking points to help make our case to elected officials.
Related to health care, the Triad region of North Carolina has 22 chambers of commerce representing over 11,000 businesses, many of which have trouble affording health insurance for their employees. We would like to create a pool to allow our members to spread risk and bargain for lower cost health insurance. To create the group, however, we need to get the state to pass enabling legislation to allow this pilot affinity group program.
ACCE: What are the biggest challenges your chamber/community currently face?
Jake: Of course we are in job creation mode, just like everyone else in this economy. Overall, though, we are in pretty good shape. We have a low cost of living, relatively low taxes, good schools and a good quality of life. When the economy rebounds, we will be in a good position to attract expanding companies.
Aside from helping our members weather the economic storm, we are taking proactive steps to improve high school drop out rates. I've seen estimates that suggest every high school drop out costs society over $1 million. To address the issue locally, the Chamber partnered with the county school district to pair high risk seniors with mentors from the business community. Last year 24 out of 25 seniors in the program graduated on time. The North Carolina General Assembly is looking at this as a potential statewide model, and we hope to win funding to expand the program.
ACCE: Finish this sentence. Never again will I...
Jake: Never again will I attempt to do my own electrical work. I'm a man of many talents, but wiring is not one of them. Also, I've learned over time never to shy away from new opportunities.
Utah Considering its Own Stimulus
The Salt Lake Chamber has proposed that Utah pass its own economic stimulus package to help spur economic recovery in the state. They are currently working to build a broad based coalition to support a stimulus spending package. The Chamber's goal for the stimulus is simple: "Put people back to work, restore consumer confidence and invest in the future." They have four operating principles:
a. Timely - We seek urgent action to infuse dollars into the Utah economy to create jobs and provide income for Utah families.
b. Targeted - We believe state stimulus efforts should be focused on the projects that provide the greatest return on investment and directed towards the industries and workers most severely impacted by the current recession.
c. Right-sized cuts - We support measured and careful cuts necessary to balance the budget.
d. Leveraged - We advocate state investment in the Utah economy that can be multiplied by matching funds.
The package is still a work in progress, but here are some of the current proposals
a. Support a highly leveraged state bond - The list should include high-priority state facilities that can be "spade ready" within the next 180 days and that have significant matching funds.
b. Restore stalled transportation projects - We support re-instating the 30 transportation projects that were put on hold in November 2008. We are prepared to support user fees that will generate the bonding capacity to pay for these $3.9 billion in projects, including the Mountain View Corridor, I-15 in Utah County and other 2015 Alliance projects. Potential revenue options include the following:
i. Raise gas tax
ii. Index gas tax
iii. Raise and index gas tax
iv. Motor vehicle registration fees
v. Maintain current auto-related sales tax earmark
c. Maximize federal stimulus - We advocate an aggressive federal stimulus in Utah because of our "spade-ready" projects, organized housing coalition, willingness to invest state funds and organized political leadership. We do not support state spending cuts that will imperil the benefits of the federal stimulus.
d. Invest in innovation economy through the USTAR initiative - USTAR has a proven track record for creating high-paying jobs in the Utah economy. We support full funding for the USTAR research teams and legislation that will enable the USTAR Governing Authority to issue up to $10 million in tax credits each year.
For more on the Salt Lake Chamber's stimulus proposal visit the Chamber's website at: http://www.saltlakechamber.org/. Click HERE for an article on the proposal from Salt Lake's public radio station KCPW.
My memories of the Illinois Senate...
Many eyes are on Springfield, Illinois and the impeachment of their Governor.
My career has given me the chance to work with legislators in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana (don't ask how I ended up there for a work related item!) and Illinois and both sides of the capitol building in Washington DC. I've also watched the Minnesota legislature work when I was in high school. In each of these cases, I've been in the gallery to watch legislators work.
BAR NONE…the loudest and what appeared to be the most un-organized legislature to watch was in Springfield Illinois. Usually legislators keep things down to a "dull roar" when another legislator is talking. In Springfield, I watched one legislator try to speak while the Senate was in session. Finally, the person at the chair had to gavel and YELL AT FULL VOLUME to ask legislators to reduce the noise. The Senator got less than ten seconds into his speech and was again lost in the volume.
Watching the action in Springfield reminded me of that experience.
The new Governor of Illinois is Pat Quinn. He seems to be a very sincere and honest man. He once traveled to western Illinois and spoke at a luncheon that I attended. I was flattered and humbled that he thanked me by name for working with the people in Illinois to work on a regional transportation issue - that certainly benefits Illinois, but probably does more to help Iowa grow.
Good luck to Governor Quinn.
In surveys last year, transportation funding ranked among the top three policy issues for ACCE members. Here are some transportation related articles that you might have missed.
Obama Directs Regulators to Tighten Auto Standards
Are his actions this week a signal of how he will approach environmental regulation?
Click to view article from the New York Times.
Federal Policy has Nation's Feet Stuck in Concrete
ACCE's own Dick Fleming from the St. Louis Chamber and Regional Growth Association discusses the disparity between highway and transit funding.
Click to view the article from Citiwire.net.
US Jobs Bill Short on Transit Funds, Say Three in House
If you think the stimulus package is a little thin on transit funding, you are not alone.
Click to view article from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Engineers give U.S. infrastructure poor grades
In their four year assessment of the nation's roads, bridges, airports, dams, and other infrastructure, the The American Society of Civil Engineers give the US a 'D'.
Click to view the article from Reuters.
House to Vote on Stimulus Bill
The House is scheduled to vote today on President Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan. Despite some concerns from some Democrats that the proposal is short on transit funding (click HERE for the article from the Chicago Sun-Times), the $825 billion spending and tax cut bill is expected to pass easily. The question is, will there be bipartisan support the stimulus? Obama made the trek up Pennsylvania Ave. yesterday to meet with Republicans on Capitol Hill, but it remains to be seen if he swayed any votes.
Here are some relevant articles about the economic stimulus:
- From the Associated Press - House to vote on Obama's economic stimulus plan
- From TheHill.com - Praise for Obama, not votes
- From the Washington Post - Why Obama Didn't Win Over GOP
- From TheHill.com - Obama budget promise wins Blue Dog support
For a comprehensive summary of the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 click to Download Appropriations Stimulus Summary.
You can also click HERE to go to a page with links to the bill's full text and an Appropriations Committee report.
Gov. Rendell Announces Tech Investment
Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced $6 million in grants to support new technology development. The funds, which flow through the Ben Franklin Technology PArtners program, are intended to stimulate high value job growth by facilitating technology commercialization. Grant recipients include include university research programs, venture capital firms and regional development alliances.
Click HERE for the press release to see what projects got funded.
Ben Franklin Technology PArtners (BFTP) has invested in Pennsylvania's innovation economy for over two decades. According to their website:
"From 1989 to 2001, BFTP boosted the state's economy by $8 billion and helped to create 93,105 job-years*. In addition, during the same period, every public dollar invested by BFTP yielded nearly $23 of additional state income."
Click HERE for more info about BFTP.
Solis on Hold Over Card Check
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), Obama's pick to take over as Secretary of Labor, is facing a challenge in her Senate confirmation hearings. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported yesterday that a Republican Senator has put an anonymous hold on the confirmation hearing to block a vote.
At issue is Solis' responses (or rather, lack of response) when questioned about Card Check. We could be gearing up for a prolonged struggle to clarify the philosophical leaning at the Department of Labor.
Click HERE for the LVRJ editorial.
Click HERE for an LA Times account of Solis' initial confirmation hearing.
Nashville Embraces Multi-lingualism
Regular Clearinghouse Blog readers may remember this post from last month about a ballot measure in Nashville, TN to make English the official language. The election was held yesterday and the proposed city charter amendment failed by roughly 10,000 votes. Approximately 74,000 people voted in yesterday's special election. Had the amendment passed, Nashville would have been the largest US city to adopt English as the official language.
Click to read the article from The Tennessean.
Both Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen voiced opposition to the measure. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce joined with other business, civic, and faith based groups to establish NashvilleForAllOfUS.org, a regional coalition opposed to the charter amendment. Here are a few of the coalition's talking points:
- A world-class city speaks many languages.
- English Only hurts Nashville's values of stewardship, safety and hospitality and it doesn't help English one lick.
- Right off the bat, let's all agree on one thing: English.
US English, Inc. promotes and tracks English Only bills across the country. Check out their page for pending state level English Only bills.
E-Verify on Hold
The Department of Homeland Security has delayed a rule that would mandate use of E-Verify by government contractors. The rule, scheduled to go in to effect last week, was postponed pending a legal challenge brought by the US Chamber. The suit challenges DHS's authority to issue such a mandate. For details click HERE.
E-Verify is a free internet based program designed to allow employers to determine the eligibility of potential new hires. More information at www.dhs.gov/everify.
Immigration and business advocacy groups have challenged mandated use of E-Verify largely because of its error rate. Studies have put the E-Verify error rate as high as 10% for foreign born legal workers. The Cato Institute has come out strongly against E-Verify on the grounds that it would be a costly and largely ineffective way to curb illegal immigration. They also raise concerns of increasing identity fraud and government intrusion.
Here are some additional links related to E-Verify:
- Christian Science Monitor article - With E-Verify, too many errors to expand its use?
Cato Institute report - Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka's Solution to Illegal Immigration
Card Check Headlines
Here are several of interesting card check headlines I've caught over the past week:
From the Washington Post - Pragmatist-in-Chief
In a pre-inauguration interview, President Obama suggests that he is not eager to open a debate on Card Check, saying: "If we're losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize, so my focus first is on those key economic priority items"
From TheHill.com - Business tests new attack against card-check bill
Does the campaign against Card Check ignore other onerous aspects of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act to the ultimate detriment of the business community?
From the Richmond Times Dispatch - Vote Here, Bub
This editorial speculates on what civic elections would be like under the card check system. If you enjoyed A Modest Proposal, this will probably be up your alley.